Objectives: Our aim was to investigate the role of age, sex, and location on MR T2* values of the knee cartilage in asymptomatic controls and patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Methods: A total of 100 participants, including 40 with OA and 60 asymptomatic controls, were enrolled in this study. Patients with OA were compared to age- (≥ 41 years old) and sex-matched controls. Controls were divided by age (aged 21–40 years, 41–60, ≥ 61). T2* values were acquired using a T2*-weighted fast gradient-echo sequence and a 1.5-T MRI scanner. T2* values of the femoral and tibial cartilages at the weight-bearing areas were obtained for comparisons. Results: The T2* values significantly increased with age and were significantly higher in the medial femoral cartilage (35.96 ± 4.06 and 31.85 ± 2.44 ms), medial tibial cartilage (30.95 ± 2.87 and 28.24 ± 1.74 ms), and lateral femoral cartilage (33.90 ± 3.15 and 31.51 ± 2.28 ms) in OA patients versus age- and sex-matched controls. Among OA patients, the T2* values for women exceed those in men in the medial femoral cartilage (37.59 ± 4.43 and 34.16 ± 2.63 ms) and medial tibial cartilage (32.17 ± 2.59 and 29.62 ± 2.53 ms; p < 0.01). Correlations were found between the Lequesne index and the T2* values for the medial femoral cartilage (r = 0.636, p < 0.001) and the medial tibial cartilage (r = 0.433, p = 0.005). Conclusion: Cartilage T2* values tend to increase with age and are useful in assessing cartilage degeneration in early OA. Key Points: • Age, sex, and location have important effects on cartilage T2* values at the knee. • MR T2* measurements are useful toward assessing cartilage degeneration. • The medial femoral and tibial cartilage T2* values correlate well with disease severity.
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